The Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church was held February 23-26, 2019. It was supposed to be a time when the church would come together and resolve and settle the issue of the church's stance on clergy standards for ministry and the language of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality. It turned out to be an unfortunate turn of events as Satan seemed to get a foothold into a denomination that's history has been one of sharing the gospel around the world. There were three proposed plans that represented different ideas of how the church should present itself on behalf of Jesus Christ to the world. The three views were: The One Church Plan, which looked for the language of the Book of Discipline to change to accept the inclusion of the homosexual lifestyle and other alternative lifestyles as compatible with Christian teaching. The plan was said to allow each church and pastor to determine whether or not they would perform same gender marriages. It was said to the church to determine whether or not they would want a minister to lead them that was LGBTQIA in lifestyle. The idea of the plan presented was that the church could stay connected in ministry. The challenge of the plan that was not brought up was allowing the congregations to make the decisions local church leadership, which has always rested with the Bishop and the cabinet. There are other innate challenges to this plan that would eventually lead to the same place that the church is now, divided and at war with itself.
The second plan was the Connectional Plan, which would allow churches that were of the same conviction to come together through conference and jurisdictional alignments. The challenge of this plan would be the ability to truly connect when the conferences would cover such a diverse geographical area. So, a church in central Kansas might be part of a conference in which the next connected church might be several hours away. And the bishop for that church might even be several states away. The Traditional Plan, which upheld the current language of the Book of Discipline and would enforce the consequences of violating the Book of Discipline.
Having watched the special General sessions via internet livestreaming, I was amazed at how quickly the civility deteriorated as the Traditional Plan became the legislatively accepted plan. At the end of it all it was a church at war with itself and I personally did not see any way in which this fracture would be repaired.
It has never been a secret that I am a conservative when it comes to theological views and the understand biblical doctrine. I feel that I must set the record straight when it comes to myself and my church. The framing of those who, like me, have a conservative theological perspective and understanding of biblical doctrine is that we are unwelcoming toward those who find themselves struggling with a particular sexual behavior. That is simply untrue. Our church is open to all. We all struggle with sin. Jesus did not die on the cross so that I could continue in my sin, but so that I could be saved from it and it's consequences. We believe in saving work of grace as well as the cleansing, sanctifying and transforming work of grace. We will not apologize for believing that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. And we will love and accept all who walk through our doors. And will continue to reach out to those in our community that need to experience the love of God and His saving grace that will transform their lives. And while we love and accept and welcome all that does not me that we can or should condone behaviors that are contrary to God's Word and that are detrimental to their life.
I refuse to sit silently while those who speak of being loving and tolerant rail against my convictional stance. I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and that it offers freedom from sin through the blood of Jesus. Years ago, when I was first in the ministry I began working with a young man who found himself in the grip of alcohol so that it controlled his life. He also found himself in the grip of pornography. Those two things controlled his life to the point that it cost him his marriage and his children. The church loved him and accepted him. When he showed up drunk for service, after being out all night on a bender, we didn't turn him away, two ushers would sit on either side of him to assist him as he endeavored to worship in a state of drunken stupor brought on by sinful behavior. The church folk loved him and accepted him. But while loving him they did not condone his behavior. I remember getting a call from one of my parishoners one night about 10:00 p.m. "Pastor, I was heading home and when I drove past the bar I saw John's truck in the parking lot. As I went by I felt as though the Holy Spirit wanted me to turn around and go get him. So, I turned around and went back to the bar. I went in and found him sitting in a booth all by himself drinking. I sat down and we began to talk and he began to cry saying how his life was ruined. I told him that Jesus could fix his broken life if he would let him, but it wouldn't be easy and that he would have to do his part." As he finished telling me what took place and how he led the young man from the bar and drove him home, he wanted to know if going in to get him was alright. I remember telling him, "absolutely!" You see, we can love people and accept them without condoning their behavior. I haven't pastored a church yet, where I have taught or even insinuated that we should reject people for any lifestyle reason.
We live in an age that is upside down! Right is wrong, wrong is right and choosing to live life by code of morality is being persecuted. I am afraid it will get worse before it gets better. But I encourage you to join me and stand firm in the faith of the Bible and keep ourselves attentive to what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing in us and through us for His glory.